[THEATER] Hodgetts & Fung Developing ImaginAsian Theater in Downtown L.A.
- Hodgetts & Fung to design downtown theater
The long-empty Linda Lea will become an Asian American center.
By Diane Haithman, Times Staff Writer
Hsin Ming Fung, as an architect and educator, utilizes her
professional skills to develop high quality, creative solutions
within her architectural practice. Having lived in several
countries, her comprehension of the human experience in various
urban environments adds a unique perspective to Hodgetts+Fung
designs. This universal approach allows for accessibility without
As Director of Design for Hodgetts + Fung Design Associates since
its inception in 1984, Ms. Fung has been engaged in the execution of
all of the firm's projects, including the award winning
temporary 'Towell' Library at UCLA, the 50 acre master plan for the
Los Angeles Arts Park, and the renovation of the Egyptian Theater on
Hollywood Boulevard. Her work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles
Museum of Science and Industry, the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos
Aires, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The work of Mr. Hodgetts and Ms. Fung has been acknowledged with
numerous awards and citations. They received the prestigious
Architecture Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in
1994 and the 1996 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, and more
recently, LA Winners award for 1997 and 1999. In addition, Ms. Fung
was the 1991 recipient of the NEA Rome Prize Advanced Fellowship
through the American Academy.
Ms. Fung earned her M. Arch. at the University of California, Los
Angeles, and in 1993 1995, she taught at Southern California
Institute of Architecture on a Visiting Professorship. She is
currently a professor at the California State Polytechnic
UniversitySchool of Environmental Design in Pomona, California.
In 1995, as well as 2000, Mr. Hodgetts and Ms. Fung were invited to
Yale University as Eero Saarinen Visiting Professors of
Architectural Design, and in 1996, they were appointed to the
Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ohio State University.
Hodgetts & Fung Design and Architecture (http://www.hplusf.com/)
the Los Angeles firm responsible for the restoration of Hollywood's
Egyptian Theater as well as the new Hollywood Bowl has been
selected to renovate a historic downtown movie palace into an Asian
American theater and cultural center that architect Craig Hodgetts
hopes will have the "compressed, surprising quality that you find in
a very dense Asian city."
ImaginAsian Entertainment a multimedia entertainment company that
promotes Asian Pacific American culture to broader audiences and
launched the 24-hour ImaginAsian TV network in Los Angeles in
October has partnered with Costa Mesa-based developer Cinema
Properties Group to launch the estimated $2-million renovation.
Renovation of the 1920s property, at 251 S. Main St., is expected to
be completed this summer.
Although the design is not complete, the center will include a 300-
seat theater with a balcony and the ImaginAsian Café. Among the
center's offerings will be small karaoke rooms that can accommodate
up to 10 people for patrons to use before or after attending a movie
or other event.
"It will be a full center," said Michael Hong, chief executive of
ImaginAsian. "Its primary role will be as a movie theater, but it
could also be used for live performances, cultural events that are
ethnic-specific or just mainstream events and stand-up comedy.
"It will be modeled after the centers they have in Asia, more of a
destination than just a theater," Hong said. "They've got Internet
cafes, massage places, all sorts of things they incorporate into the
"One of the most important things is the ImaginAsian Café, which
will specialize in Asian snacks we'll have samosas and egg rolls,
as well as Asian box candies that you wouldn't find in a Loews
Hong added that the theater screen might be used for group viewing
of televised events of specific interest to Asian American
"A good event would be the cricket matches between India and
Pakistan television on a huge screen, that would be a huge draw,"
he said. "It's crazy they're on all night, over three or five
days, depending on the tournament. Another good idea would be World
Cup soccer. We're only limited by our imagination."
The downtown structure, out of use for many years, has been home to
several historic movie theaters including the Arrow, the Aztec and
most recently the Linda Lea, a Japanese-language movie house.
"The theater itself has been there since prewar days, and it has a
real checkered history," Hodgetts said. "It was for a little while a
Japanese burlesque house I'm pretty sure that's not apocryphal. It
really must have been quite a street scene. There was an open-air
balcony where performers would wave to the passersby."
The theater reopened in the late 1940s as the Linda Lea, which
screened Japanese films. Hodgetts said that the existing orange and
white plexiglass Linda Lea sign, from the late 1940s, will be taken
down but saved and incorporated into the interior design.
Sue Ann Kirst, spokeswoman for Cinema Properties Group (her husband,
James Kirst, is president), said that the developers purchased the
building to take advantage of the burgeoning development of downtown
L.A. and brought in ImaginAsian Entertainment, which created similar
Asian American entertainment complexes in New York, because of the
theater's location near Little Tokyo and Chinatown.
"We happened upon the Linda Lea theater downtown several years ago
when we were looking at another project," Sue Ann Kirst said. "We
said, 'What a wonderful jewel, what a shame if it became a parking
lot.' Plus with all the new development and condos downtown, it
seemed that there was a need for entertainment in the area,
something a little different, with all the different cultures
She added that Cinema Properties makes a practice of taking on
properties that would seem to have little future.
"That's what we're trying to do in downtown Los Angeles," she said.
HODGETTS & FUNG
The husband-and-wife team of Craig Hodgetts and Hsin-Ming Fung form
what might be described as an ideal partnership: Their collaborative
work is strengthened both by their own harmonious relationship and
by the cultural differences they bring to their work. It is a
formula that has served them well as they have grown from a mom-and-
pop architectural practice to designers of a number of high-profile
commissions. In 1992 the firm was commissioned to design UCLA's
Towell Library, a difficult project that called for a temporary
structure set amidst Gothic campus architecture, and their
innovative solution won the firm an award.
The firm has established a reputation for high-caliber exhibit
design, including a pavilion for Microsoft's Windows 95 at the
Electronic Entertainment Expo and the design of the Library of
Congress Charles and Ray Eames show. Other significant projects
include the renovation of the landmark Egyptian Theater in
Hollywood, California, for American Cinematheque. This design
achieved the feat of bringing a sense of spectacle to the theater
while accommodating the technical and aesthetic needs of its
decidedly contemporary patrons.
Other projects include a redesign of the storied Hollywood Bowl, a
new fine arts building for the Los Angeles Otis College of Art and
Design, and a performing arts center for the Minnesota Orchestral
Association. The pair have won many awards and grants, including
three Progressive Architecture awards and the American Academy of
Arts and Letters' Architecture Award.